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On Diversified Approaches to Learning Evaluation in Modern Distance Education
By Liu Renkun1,Yang Tingting2 and Wang Lina2
1. Heilongjiang Radio & TV University, Harbin, Heilongjiang 150080; 2. The Open University of China, Beijing 100039
Abstract: Modern distance education is characterized by individualized learning, digitized transmission of instruction, and provision to a diversified population. These unique characteristics call for corresponding changes in teaching concepts, teaching methods, and evaluation methods. In evaluating students' learning, there currently exist problems such as oversimplifying the evaluation or substituting examination for evaluation. The underlying causes are the lack of theoretical support for learning evaluation and the practical failure to overhaul traditional evaluation approaches. In light of the recent growth of distance education and national requirements and laws concerning distance education, it is increasingly important that we implement diversified distance learning evaluation approaches. Specifically, the evaluation approaches need to be procedurized, digitized, and comprehensive.
Keywords: diversification; distance education; evaluation methods
Chinese Library Classification Number: G434 Document Code: A
*This essay is the outcome of the 2011 Open University of China key topic "Study of the Open University of China's Personalized Learning Evaluation Services" (Topic Approval Number: G11AQ0020Z).
With the coming of the information age, it has become a trend for people to refresh their knowledge and upgrade their abilities through the Internet, fueling the rapid development of modern distance education. During the course of this development, distance education has demonstrated three features, that is, individualized learning, instruction transmitted via modern information technology, and education provided to a diversified population. Such changes in learning methods, instruction transmission and learner characteristics necessitate changes in teaching concepts, teaching methods and evaluation methods.
Schools everywhere are embracing the new concept of student-centered education. However, this new teaching concept must be embodied in the teaching process and in student support services. If traditional teaching and administration methods that are inappropriate for modern distance education and individualized learning continue to be used, student-centered education and individualized learning become empty catch phrases. It is noteworthy that distance education professionals in China have adopted some changes in teaching administration based on the unique features of distance education (particularly individualized learning), and have achieved some positive results.
1. Status quo of learning evaluation in distance education in China
All schools fundamentally aim to teach and cultivate; everything that a school does is related to the objective of equipping the student with the knowledge, abilities, and character needed to eventually become a successful member of society. Generally speaking, whether a student's improved abilities are commonly recognized during the schooling period constitutes an important prerequisite or factor for whether he or she will be successful later in society, whereas a student's success in school is determined by teaching and learning evaluation. Improvement of teaching quality is a never-ending theme in school development. Teaching quality comprises many factors, including external factors like teaching administration, teaching principles and teaching methods, as well as internal factors like the student's learning behavior, learning methods and intelligence. These factors interact with each other as a whole system in shaping teaching quality. Educational development theory and practice prove that only when each factor and each subsystem affecting teaching quality plays its due role can the whole system operate effectively and teaching quality be improved. It is well known that teaching is made up of different aspects, and evaluation of the student's learning is an indispensible one of them. Not only is it a recognition of the student's learning achievements, but more importantly it guides learning behavior and boosts the student's cognitive ability, practical ability and ability to analyze and solve problems. Therefore, learning evaluation plays an important role in improving a school's teaching quality. The reason why traditional, conclusive learning evaluation is criticized is that it no longer meets the needs of today's distance education. Furthermore, "establishing relatively independent and pluralistic standards for teaching quality evaluation and reforming the one-time examination format have become top priorities in distance education reform" . Thus, there is increasing interest in distance learner evaluation methods that focus on the learning process and effectively utilize modern information technology. Some theoretical research and practical exploration has been done by distance education researchers, instructors and administrators, formulating preliminary evaluation methods and approaches that differ from traditional ones.
1.1 Integration of formative and summative examinations
Taking into consideration the characteristics of distance learners, some schools have enacted appropriate reform in students' evaluation, that is, "to evaluate the students' study during the teaching and learning of the subject" . This type of evaluation is generally based on students' day-to-day assignments. Assignments are handed in to the instructor for grading, the instructor provides feedback to the students, and a formative score is later obtained. Some schools also include the students' attitudes, behavior, and participation in study groups or school-organized learning activities as a percentage of the students' formative score. This score accounts for 20%-40% of the total score for a given subject. The students take a summative assessment after they finish studying the subject, and both formative and summative scores are incorporated into the total score for the subject.
1.2 Partially open-book examination
As distance learners are mostly on-the-job adults, this evaluation system stresses the students' ability to solve practical problems, especially those closely related to production and social life. Closed-book examination requires mechanical memorization of theorems, definitions, formulas and laws, while in the workplace these would be frequently looked up in reference books. It is of little significance to memorize this material, so some schools adopt the partially open-book examination. This means giving students permission to take related theorems, definitions, formulas and laws to the examination room for reference. Some schools stipulate that it is up to the students to decide what they extract. The school uniformly regulates the paper that can be used, essentially limiting the scope of the extracted material.
1.3 Open-book examination
In this kind of examination, students are asked to read related information or collect source material through outside research, and then complete a major assignment of substantial size and quality within a given period of time to obtain a score for the subject. Another approach is to allow students to take reference books or their course notes to the examination room for reference.
1.4 Web-based course assessment reform
This method incorporates information technology into the assessment process, and can be divided roughly into two categories. One has no formative assessment; after completing a subject, students must take an online examination and receive a computer-generated score for the subject. The other uses formative assessment, either exclusively or in conjunction with summative examination. For subjects without summative examination, students complete a total of 6-7 online assignments throughout the course according to the time and place specified by the school, and receive a final score for the subject based on the aggregate score of all the assignments. Some subjects combine the formative assessment with online or written summative examination.
Generally speaking, the development of distance education has brought about gradual reforms in teaching and administration, including valuable and effective exploration into new approaches for learning evaluation. However, these reforms have been experimentally applied to a limited number of courses, and have not been implemented comprehensively in distance education teaching and management. Even with reforms, many problems still exist.
2. Learning evaluation in distance education in China – existing problems and their analysis
2.1 Major existing problems
People are fully aware of the important function of learning evaluation, which is often described as a teaching baton. Learning evaluation serves multiple functions, including diagnosing teaching methods used by instructors, evaluating the quality of teaching resources, detecting problems in distance education teaching support, and understanding students' learning methods, behaviors, strategies and goals. Thus it plays the role of correcting teaching and learning behaviors. Nonetheless, distance learning evaluation often takes the form of a simple examination for various reasons, which are substantiated as follows.
Assessment of the students' ability is neglected and learning evaluation becomes the learning objective. We must train our learners with sufficient knowledge, quality of character, and the ability to solve problems in real life and production so that they can adapt to and promote the development of society. Therefore, both teaching and learning evaluations should center on serving the aforementioned training objectives. However, in reality, there are cases when study is simply a means to acquire a diploma; learning evaluation is hardly related to the aforementioned objectives and becomes the learning objective itself. What is more important is that the "single evaluation model cannot live up to the objectives of examining the learners' overall abilities in a complicated learning process."
Summative assessment of students' learning is overemphasized while formative assessment is neglected. First, the summative assessment score is excessively weighted. At present, scores for distance education subjects are made up of formative assessment and summative assessment, with the summative assessment counting for up to 80% of the total score. As a matter of fact, both formative assessment and summative assessment function as a learning evaluation for the students, and their relative weights should be decided by the nature of the subject. For some subjects, formative assessment may be suitable as the method of learning evaluation. Second, formative assessment nowadays is becoming a mere formality, replaced by day-to-day assignments that do not perform the role of formative assessment. Some formative assessment scores are rather arbitrary scores given by instructors just before the final examination. There is no assessment, no process of correcting the students' learning methods or behaviors and no teaching guidance.
Emphasis on uniform "testing" and lack of individualized "evaluation" has turned learning evaluation into a completely test-oriented education system. Most learning evaluations in distance education resemble or employ the uniform, concentrated final examinations used in traditional education, which stress "testing" and seldom reflect improvement in teaching concepts and methods, and application of teaching strategies. They focus on testing and not on evaluation. Due to the lack of individualized evaluation, the results of examinations cannot be used to analyze the teaching and learning process, let alone provide an objective evaluation of the teaching quality of a school.
Learning evaluation relies heavily on traditional examination methods and fails to utilize information technology, thus lacking the characteristics of distance education. The web-based reformation of course examinations is an important method of learning evaluation in distance education, and has been widely used by some foreign distance education institutions and some professional continuing education programmes in China. However, in China's distance education, teaching evaluations have just started pilot applications of this method, and student evaluations continue to use the traditional medium of paper. Instructors evaluate student work in assembly-line fashion, and inevitably such evaluations are somewhat arbitrary and subjective.
Too much importance is placed on testing the students' memorization of knowledge rather than the students' ability to comprehensively utilize knowledge to solve practical problems, and tests are often disjoint from the textbook. This problem can be seen in evaluations that focus on knowledge for memorization and question types such as fill-in-the-blank, term definitions, short answer and essay questions. The answers can be found by opening a book, and students can cram at the end of the term without spending much energy on their studies at other times. Since most of the content is knowledge for memorization and rarely deals with practical problems, the evaluations fail to test the students' ability to solve practical problems. There are also some questions that have little to do with the requirements of teaching materials, and the evaluation strays from the textbook. As a result, the students' self-study and initiative are affected because of the failure of the evaluation to reflect their independent study and problem-solving abilities.
The advantages of distance education are not fully reflected in practical teaching evaluation, for it mostly adopts the methods of regular institutions of higher education and neglects the fact that most of the learners are on-the-job adults. This problem stands out more prominently in the practical teaching of literature, law and economics programmes, in which the practicals are made up of two parts: outside research and graduation thesis. If outside research can be said to have the traits of practical teaching, then the graduation thesis is for the most part theoretical and academic research. How can it be regarded as "practical" teaching? What are the "practical" contents of this practical teaching? Furthermore, most of the contents of outside research have little bearing on the students' vocation and actual work. Thus, the benefits of practical teaching are not achieved and the advantages of distance education are not fully exercised.
2.2 Problem Analysis
The author holds that the above-mentioned problems only represent surface phenomena, and their causes are varied.
2.2.1 Insufficient theoretical preparation for distance education in China
Theoretical support is lacking in teaching and administration, especially in students' learning evaluation. Over the years, distance education has focused on expanding in scale, but has lacked theoretical and practical exploration into developing distance education theory appropriate to China. Learning evaluation is an area that is even more lacking in effective theoretical research and practical exploration. As mentioned above, some schools currently use students' day-to-day assignments as a replacement for formative assessment. In reality, formative assessment has a special significance. If replaced with day-to-day assignments whose answers can be found straight out of the textbook, how can instructors detect problems through such assignments? What kind of feedback can the instructors get from such formative assessment? Using this type of formative assessment, it is impossible for instructors to correct students' improper learning behaviors and methods. Therefore, this kind of assessment is regarded as a mere formality.
2.2.2 Teaching evaluation lacks individualization
Distance education advocates independent study, and study is individualized. However, this is not reflected in teaching evaluation. The most important principle in distance or traditional teaching is to teach students according to their natural abilities. The reason is that students have different learning processes and methods, and a uniform teaching method cannot meet the needs of all the students. Class teaching is a product of industrialization. Large scale mechanical production requires large batches of laborers with uniform skills. Class teaching meets this demand, but theoretically leads to teaching that is not differentiated. The application of computer technology in teaching has broken down the fixed pace and sequence of traditional teaching. Students can choose what to learn and when to learn it in accordance with their individual needs. This substantial change makes it possible to individualize teaching, that is, the application of the Internet technology supports the principle of teaching students according to their aptitude. In the course of teaching, all schools take an interest in the results of teaching. Every instructor wants to know whether his or her teaching meets people's needs and promotes the growth of the learners. The way to judge whether teaching is effective is to evaluate the learning results of the learners. Modern distance education features individualized learning, and therefore traditional evaluation methods must be changed accordingly.
2.2.3 One-sided evaluation
Learning evaluation is closely related to teaching evaluation. The current evaluation approach pays attention only to students and is somewhat one-sided. Learning evaluation is an important part of teaching evaluation. On one hand, it is a reflection of the instructors' teaching methods, strategies and procedures. Instructors revise and improve their teaching methods and strategies based on the information it provides. On the other hand, learning evaluation feedback also serves as a correction of distance learners' behaviors, a way to find out major problems in learning so as to better improve learning quality. However, the function of teaching evaluation is not achieved in practice.
2.2.4 Purpose of evaluation approaches unclear
Teaching evaluation is a system made up of various elements like evaluation approaches, evaluation content and evaluation goals. The evaluation process is an integral part of the teaching process, but current evaluation approaches lack clear purpose. Research and especially practical exploration are lacking in certain detailed aspects of teaching administration. The most striking example is the insufficient attention to teaching evaluation in the design of distance education. The main ideas of teaching evaluation are, first, to mobilize the students' study initiative and encourage students to study hard, and second, to guide instructors and students to discover what are the most effective teaching and learning behaviors. Evaluation approaches must serve the aforementioned aims. Since instructors of distance education undertake the management of several subjects, they do not have the energy to meticulously plan all the subjects. The lack of integrated planning in teaching leads to the inability to organically integrate resource construction with teaching and learning evaluation, and teaching and learning evaluation become artificially disconnected. The functions of mobilization and guidance are not fully reflected in the existing evaluation approaches.
2.2.5 Overemphasis on quantification and standardization in the existing evaluation system
Learning evaluation should be an evaluation of the students' learning aptitude, analysis skills and comprehensive abilities. It is both comprehensive and to a certain extent, ambiguous. However, the current evaluation system is strongly biased towards standardization and quantification. Though standardization and quantification are of great importance and necessity in modern industry, their value in teaching and administration is debatable. In particular, contradictions and deficiencies stand out when standardization and quantification are applied to learning evaluation. In reality, some things are inherently ambiguous and cannot be quantified or measured by a uniform standard, such as a person's character, ability, creativity, and personal learning experiences. These cannot be summarized using current assessment standards or quantification. Overly quantifying examinations for certain subjects will certainly have a negative impact on the evaluation.
2.2.6 Practical teaching evaluation characteristics not achieved
Most distance learners are on-the-job adults. They have a considerable amount of practical experience, which can enrich practical teaching in distance education and pave the way for practical teaching to become more individualized. However, due to the lack of research on practical teaching specific to distance education, current evaluation approaches neglect the fact that most learners are on-the-job adults, and practical teaching simply imitates the practical teaching systems of regular institutions of higher education. Therefore, the evaluation of practical teaching suffers problems like simplification, weak focus, lack of distance education features and lack of individualization.
3. Distance education learning evaluation trending towards diversification
3.1 The meaning of learning evaluation diversification
Before proceeding, it is necessary to analyze and contrast the learning objectives of distance education, basic education and regular higher education.
On the surface, distance education features the separation of instructors and students, media transmission of instruction and wide variation in students' background. In fact, there are far more differences between distance education and general basic education and regular higher education. Aside from using information technology to educate and bridge a physical separation, distance education differs from traditional education in terms of learning objective. The learning objective for basic education is to lay a foundation for the next period of study; the body of knowledge for each grade is closely related to that of the next grade, but is less relevant to the student's future career. Some of the knowledge in regular higher education is also not directly related to the students' future career, similar to basic education.
Generally speaking, most distance learners are on-the-job adults, and thus distance education is classified as a second-tier discipline, that is, adult education. This characteristic of learners being on-the-job adults means that their studies will be pertinent to their jobs, specialized and practically applied. In terms of the learning process, learners acquire knowledge via a wider set of sources. Theoretically speaking, they can use the Internet to obtain study materials from any learning platform. Online transmission makes possible the rapid update of teaching resources and rapid dissemination of knowledge to a wide audience. Learners are not restricted by classrooms or instructors, and they do not have to accept a uniform style of teaching. Instead, they can individually study what interests them the most, which is more effective and contributes to individualized learning. With the development of modern information technology, educational technology provides distance learners with automatic learning evaluation, learning guidance and learning feedback support. In terms of learning approach, they can choose systematic study or non-systematic study, online group study or instructor-guided study; also popular is mixed-mode study. In a word, learners can select what they think is the most effective way is to learn.
It is reasonable to describe online study as using five sensory channels, i.e., "reading (sight channel), listening (hearing channel), looking (sight channel), speaking (hearing channel) and doing (touch and action channels)". Moreover, learning ability is a combination of multiple elements and reflects several kinds of abilities. Robert Gargne maintains that learning is affected by a number of variables, including "the learner's willpower, time (chance) available for study, his aptitude (subject specificity), understanding power (general intelligence) and teaching quality" . Students manifest various kinds of abilities during the course of their study, which means that a diversified learning evaluation approach must be used instead of a simplistic one. A diversified evaluation approach is appropriate for the distance education characteristics of "multiple standards, multiple forms and multiple levels", such as the different levels of junior college, undergraduate and postgraduate education, and the diverse content of degree and non-degree education.
In conclusion, the meaning of diversified evaluation can be summarized as follows. (1) Evaluation content is diversified. Instead of emphasizing the evaluation of pure memorized knowledge, the focus is on assessing the students' learning methods, learning ability, learning process, practical problem solving and practical ability. Evaluation could include major assignments, theses, day-to-day study evaluation and final examinations. (2) Methods and means of learning evaluation are diversified to include online, paper medium, formative assessment and summative assessment, etc. (3) Subjects of evaluation are diversified. In addition to schools evaluating students' learning, class evaluation, student self-evaluation, peer evaluation and societal evaluation should be considered. (4) Standards of evaluation are diversified to accommodate different levels. (5) Evaluation content and standards should vary by subject, and even vary according to different units of the same subject. The specific implementation of diversified evaluation can be summed up as: evaluation over a period of time (procedurized), use of information technology and comprehensiveness.
3.2 Diversified approaches to learning evaluation
3.2.1 Emphasize the learning process and procedurize evaluation
This is an important way to achieve diversified evaluation and a reflection of a process-oriented outlook on the learning process. "Process orientation refers to freedom from the restrictions of the predesigned goals in learning evaluation, with the focus on taking into evaluation all matters in the learning process, the interaction of those who give and receive evaluation and the specific evaluation situation, and the value of evaluation process per se." It means that learning evaluation is reflected through the learning process, mainly by conducting formative assessment of the students' learning.
Formative assessment refers to "timely customized correction feedback in accordance with the student's individual differences, generally given for each unit of learning content during the course of teaching and learning."  Hence, formative assessment does not simply mean requiring students to do day-to-day assignments. It emphasizes the entire learning process and gives learners a comprehensive evaluation of their studies and "corrects" their learning behaviors. Evaluation methods include self-evaluation, peer evaluation, and the instructor's overall evaluation. Evaluation content focuses on exploring the students' learning process, including attitude, learning ability, application ability and psychological integrity as well as study strategies, scores and habits. In the evaluation, "the learners are guided to take an active part in the study and discussion of a subject, and their performance in the participation is taken as an important part to judge the learning results."
(ⅰ) Student self-evaluation
Students are informed beforehand of the evaluation content, indexes and methods, so that after each unit, they can evaluate their learning progress accordingly. Students are able to find out problems in the course of their study, such as learning methods, pace, behaviors and scores. Changes in the evaluation agent can help students rectify incorrect learning methods, detect learning discrepancies and improve learning behavior, while stimulating the students' initiative and encouraging independent study. Furthermore, as the subject score is not the only index for evaluation, students are less apprehensive about the learning evaluation and their overall development is benefited.
(ⅱ) Peer evaluation
Different learners have different views on the same problem, and have different interpretations of the same case. For certain matters, a simple "true" or "false" judgment is not possible. On such occasions, it is more effective for students to evaluate each other. As distance learners are generally on-the-job adults, their studies are closely related to their jobs. They often encounter the same problem during their study, and the problem resonates with them due to its nature. Peer evaluation is performed in a group. By brainstorming, several solutions are found to the same problem, and each solution helps stimulate the thinking of the participants. Through this process of mutual inspiration, the solution is improved. What needs to be pointed out is that the proposal of one solution is not necessarily a rejection of other solutions. Different solutions may be applicable to different situations. This kind of mutual evaluation is also valuable in teaching people to look at a problem from different angles and develop a more objective view of matters.
(ⅲ) Instructor evaluation
Instructor evaluation is involved throughout the entire process of formative assessment. The problem with student self-evaluation is that it is incomplete and biased. Evaluating learning behavior, methods, interests and abilities requires a substantial process. Distance learners are on-the-job adults who have all received traditional education. Some of their former study habits may not be suitable for independent study and distance education. It must be taken into account that they are not used to this kind of evaluation, whether in the form of self-evaluation or peer evaluation. Besides the role of "correction", the instructor evaluation plays the roles of guidance, instruction, induction and tutoring. The value of instructor evaluation is also reflected in both teaching and learning aspects. While participating in student self-evaluation and peer evaluation, instructors are inspired to improve their own teaching strategies and methods.
3.2.2 Fully utilizing modern information technology to digitize evaluation
Research shows that "the frequencies of learners' visits to online learning platforms (communities) and their participation in teaching activities like tutorial and Q & A, their effective online duration, the quantity of their posts and effective number of posts", "learners' requests in learning communities are mainly requests to seek and acquire knowledge and those of social exchanges among the community members; these are inseparable and intertwined with online learning investment and instructor support responses." "The frequency of participation in teaching activities like tutorials and Q & A, the frequency of instructor-student interactions (which refers to the number of posts between instructors and students), effective number of posts, and the importance and frequency of subject matter keywords within those posts can all be measured. They control and regulate the students' learning behavior."  Therefore, it is feasible to apply learning evaluation to the students' online study. The following are three major ways to digitize evaluation.
The first is to use technological means to conduct formative assessment of students. This achieves both the procedurization and diversification of learning evaluation. It can be done by way of "electronic archives", also called "electronic learning files". Modern information technology is used to provide learners with a virtual space, keeping a record of their learning behavior and process using learning evaluation tools made with electronic and computer technologies. Also called "portfolio assessment", this type of evaluation is self-administered. "The portfolio refers to an intentional collection of the students' works to reflect their efforts, progress and achievements in specific fields, which must include the students' participation in choosing the contents, guidance for choice, grading standards and evidence of students' self-reflection. Portfolio assessment refers to evaluation of students' progress by analyzing the process of making the portfolio and the final results." "Electronic archives are made with electronic technology, which allows developers of a portfolio to collect and organize its works and materials through various forms of media (audio, video, pictures and text). The standards-based electronic archives with database and hypertext technology demonstrate clearly the relationship between standards and objectives, between works and reflection."At present in China, this method of student evaluation still remains in the phase of theoretical exploration and limited pilot application in basic education. Due to the influence of examination-oriented education, it is still very difficult to popularize this evaluation method in basic education in the short term. Distance education is different from basic education in that it is not selective in the assessment of students' performance. Thus there is wide room and potential for the adoption of this evaluation approach.
The second way is to evaluate the students' achievements using network technology. With the development of information technology, some intelligent learning systems make it possible to evaluate the students' learning with network technology. Meaningful trials have been conducted in some disciplines of distance education with positive results, especially for certain learning systems. "It is not only a way for learners to acquire resources proactively, but what is more important is that it offers a kind of individualized learner support." This includes online learning evaluation of the students. Currently, China's adoption of this distance education evaluation approach is limited to pilot projects in some provinces. It is still impossible for students to take examinations according to their pace anywhere and anytime, and some operations are extremely cumbersome. For this reason, in line with the modern education mantra of "people-oriented" education, distance education learning evaluation can incorporate gaming concepts to be both informative and fun, and boost the students' initiative for study.
The third way is to use web-based electronic assessment. Online course construction involves more than the putting together of knowledge. In terms of content, student assessment should be included and in terms of technology, students should be required to finish studying a certain amount of content within a fixed period. Students can then immediately perform self-examination in the course to check their study progress and record their performance in the electronic archives.
The use of electronic technology in assessment needs to be supported by educational departments. We need to "advance the construction of a digital examination question bank with the support of digital learning resources so that examinations can be given along with study to provide learners with convenient, fast individualized learning evaluation services." 
3.2.3 Focus on the evaluation's effect of putting learning into practice, perform comprehensive evaluation of study content application
For evaluations, "the inclusion of evaluation contents such as social investigations, solutions to work problems, practical operation and achievements of technology application obtain the effect of putting into practice what has been learned."  The agents of evaluation are employers of the distance learners, their schools and instructors. The main contents of evaluations are closely related and connected to the learners' actual work. Evaluation mainly assesses the students' innovativeness, ability to analyze problems, ability to solve problems and practical ability. Evaluation methods represent combinations of formative and summative assessments, quantitative and qualitative assessments, self and other people's evaluation, as well as diagnostic evaluation.
The indexes for this kind of comprehensive evaluation should be determined and formulated jointly by schools and employers due to the relevance of the evaluation to the learners' jobs. The employers' requirements for the learners are broken down to form the evaluation index system, which should be closely linked to the employees' performance assessment. By truly achieving the effect of putting learning into practice and playing a significant role in the development of the workplace, schools fulfill their duty to serve the society. For example, the assessment of outside research and solutions to work problems is mainly to examine the students' ability to detect, analyze, and solve problems. A student's investigation of a certain problem will help reveal the student's attitude, behavior and judgment concerning that problem. The solution to the problem would be analyzed as to whether the student found out its causes, and as to the methods and procedures used to solve the problem. The evaluation indexes for outside research would be determined on this basis.
In reality, regardless of the type of education, its most fundamental nature is to teach and cultivate. Though distance education features unique transmission of instruction, provision to a diversified population, and emphasis on students' independent study, it is consistent with the most fundamental nature of education to teach and cultivate, and shares the common goal of serving the society. It should be pointed out that currently in China, traditional learning evaluation is still prevalent in basic education. With examination used as a substitute and determinant of assessment, learning evaluation is highly selective. Therefore, in both teaching and administration, the students' scores become the prime objective of study, with undue emphasis on the possession of knowledge and neglecting evaluation of the students' behaviors, abilities and character. As such, quality-oriented education has become a hot topic in educational circles and examination-oriented education is widely criticized. In view of the new developments in distance education and the national requirements and laws for distance education, diversified evaluation represents the trend of reform in distance education learning evaluation approaches. It is imperative to establish a relatively scientific evaluation system rewarding intelligence, morality, knowledge, ability, innovation and application, to help students to know themselves, build confidence and urge them to learn for gain, for accomplishment and for practical use. In this way, the due role of teaching evaluation will be brought into full play to further strengthen the function of distance education in academic education, moral education and cultural education, and to shoulder the responsibility of serving and leading the society.
 Liang Guokun, et.al. The Main Existing Problems and Countermeasures of County-level Radio and TV University [J]. Modern Distance Education.2011(1): 32-37.